Monday, July 9, 2018

Putting Food By for Winter: Freezing


Canning, freezing, dehydrating ... 

These are all terms for what our grandparents called "putting by food". 

In more general terms, it is the act of preserving harvested vegetables and fruits for use during the long winter months.

As the season's harvest continues, it is imperative that we give some attention to "putting by" some of the extra produce.

In this series, I'm going to give you a look at what I do each year to store food up for the winter - although it's hard to think of winter when the temperatures outside are currently soaring into the 90's!

Today, we'll tackle freezing.  Then next week, blanching.  Some vegetables must be blanched before freezing.  I have a whole separate post prepared for next week's installment of "putting food by".  I'll have step-by-step instructions for blanching food.  We'll wrap up the series in two weeks with a tutorial on preserving herbs.  You won't believe how easy it is to use your microwave to dehydrate herbs!   

Flash Freezing

Flash freezing is used when you have an item that you want to freeze individual pieces of fruit or vegetable.  An example of items that work well with flash freezing is green onions, berries, grapes,  and zucchini.

STEP 1:  To flash freeze, cut the fruit or vegetable into the size that you will most likely want to use.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  The parchment paper keeps the fruit or vegetable from sticking to the surface of the baking sheet.

Some fruit, like strawberries or grapes, is perfectly fine to leave whole.  For instance, I slice green onions into small pieces, while zucchini is sliced into piece appropriate for soup or for a casserole.  The photos below show the difference in preparation.


STEP 2:  Place the entire baking sheet flat into your freezer.  Depending on the size and thickness of the fruit or vegetable, it will take between 20 and 45 minutes for the individual pieces to freeze firmly.

STEP 3:  Remove from freezer and place in freezer bags.

The parchment paper can be shaped into a funnel to allow you to easily transfer the contents of the pan to a large freezer bag.

STEP 4:  Remove as much air as possible from the freezer bag.  Label with the month and date of freezing, the name of the item, and (if applicable) the amount which is in the bag.

Freezing Greens


Some greens are best cooked and then frozen.  You can just wash greens and then throw them into a freezer bag if you want.  Really, they freeze just fine.  Any time you freeze a tender plant, like a lettuce or green it is going to break down the plant and it will be quite limp when thawed.  The problem with freezing greens whole is that they take up a lot more space in the freezer when frozen in their raw state.  

To save freezer space:  wash the greens and then place them in a pan, which has been heated to medium heat.  You may need to add a little more water to the pan to keep the greens from burning.  But, you won't need much water.  Within 2 or 3 minutes the greens will shrink significantly in size as they cook down.  Once they have reduced in size, remove them from the heat, let them cool, and place them into quart sized freezer bags.  I freeze 1 cup of greens per bag.  Remove as much air as possible, label, and place in the freezer. 

Chop and Freeze

 I call this general freezing and it is exactly the same as flash freezing, but generally less time consuming.

 I consider general freezing to define items which do not need to be flash frozen.  They can be cut and put directly into a freezer bag because they will be used as a whole unit when thawing. Shredded zucchini is an example. 

The steps are the same as flash freezing.  But, you can simply prepare the item, fill the bag, label, and freeze.  It's a great idea to stack the bags on a baking sheet before putting them in the freezer.  This allows them to freeze firmly, while flat.  Otherwise, the contents of the bags can shift, resulting in frozen blocks of produce that will not stack nicely and efficiently in your freezer. 

Zucchini and Carrot greens ready for the freezer

What do you freeze for winter?

I'd love to know what sorts of things you freeze for later use and if you have any great tips on making the process efficient and successful.  Leave your thoughts in the comments section.  

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  1. Blackberries, strawberries, peaches with blanching, green beans blanched. I freeze bananas for nice cream or for recipes. Pomegranate seeds are great to freeze since they are only around for such a short time. I don't have CSA here and what we have is so expensive. I only freeze what we don't eat which isn't much with a young man in the house

    1. I would never have considered freezing pomegranate seeds! What a great tip! I think I've maybe gotten pomegranate one time. They seem complicated. Next week I have an entire post written and ready to publish about blanching. The freezing post was already so long that I decided that blanching deserved its own post. I once found bananas for $.50 a bunch! I bought about 10 bunches. I still have bananas in the freezer from that haul! I use them all the time. Sometimes the boys just want to go get one from the freezer when it's hot and eat it like a popsickle.